By: Christopher Benson
Every day during Preakness week I wake up with the type of anticipation that can only be prepare to a child on Christmas morning. In New England this is the time of the year when the weather finally becomes enjoyable. Triple Crown season is just after the dark cold wet winter and the short humid summer. This is my favorite week for racing and my favorite race of the year. Many racing fans will argue Kentucky Derby week is superior because that is the highest profile and most prestigious race in our sport. Others will tell me that Breeder’s Cup week is better because there is more action packed into two days. They will never convince me. The second morning of Preakness had me once again up early with a spring in my step. I ran to the nearest computer to compile this celebration of my favorite leg of the triple crown as fast as possible. Here are just a few reasons why the Preakness is the best event in all of sports.
The Preakness Stakes is the one race that seems to always carry with it hope. Hope that our sport will once again have a Triple Crown champion to be celebrated and dare I say, save our sport for the casual fans. The Kentucky Derby gets the ball rolling but a victory in the Preakness brings our sport back into the national headlines. Living in New England, most of the year is all about the four major team sports. Trying to talk Travers Stakes predictions in these parts is like trying to double knot a pair of velcro sneakers. This unfortunate situation changes each year for a brief period after the Kentucky Derby when people get interested in the Triple Crown and start to hold conversations about the Preakness Stakes. I think the short time off between the races is a big factor in this phenomenon. During the second leg of the Triple Crown season, the most provincial sports city on the planet starts to talk about a horse race in Baltimore.
I may be biased because this race has been more lucrative to me than any other, but I would argue that the Preakness Stakes has great drama. As an avid fan since 2005, nearly every Preakness since has been special. I’ll start with the obvious, 2012. I’ll Have Another vs. Bodemeister part II. The most exciting horse race I have ever seen; saw I’ll Have Another catch his rival down the stretch to set up a triple crown shot at the Belmont. Unfortunately the story ended tragically but at that moment there was an air of excitement I hadn’t felt in any sport, including the ending of a certain 86 year World Series drought.
Another great Preakness was the battle of the long shot vs. the Filly. Rachel Alexandra going wire to wire against the boys and knocking off Mine That Bird in 2009 was an amazing race to watch. It was inspiring to see a filly win a Triple Crown race, especially after what happened to Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby the year prior. Speaking of 2008, that year the Preakness also proved to create an electric atmosphere for our sport going into the Belmont Stakes. Big Brown had his shot at history. He, like so many others before him, came up short but going into the Belmont there was hope. Speaking of hope, nearly all hope was lost in my first Preakness Stakes, 2005 when Afleet Alex nearly had a disaster but managed to steady himself and come roaring back to victory, amazing.
The 138th Preakness looks to have the makings of another special race. Orb, the heavy favorite, will most likely come out of Pimlico with his Triple Crown hopes alive. There are other storylines that will make this Preakness exciting. Doug O’Neill will try to win back to back Preakness Stakes with Goldencents, the comeback story of Oxbow’s connections, the long shots and Departing, the horse that skipped the derby to prepare for this moment. Of course we can’t overlook the handful of horses who feel that traffic or weather ruined their shot at the Kentucky Derby. I am confident that the anticipation and excitement that lingers through Saturday morning will be justified come Saturday night. A newborn will prevent me from making the trip to Pimlico, but I will be glued to the television to watch the last major race before our hometown track starts its own live racing season.